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Zoom on argan oil

For several years now, argan oil has been more and more used in cosmetics. This oil comes from the fruits of argan trees, which only grow in south-western Morocco, making it a rather rare oil. Its scarcity also turns it into a very expensive oil. Furthermore, the argan tree is also registered as world heritage by UNESCO.

Originally, a very traditional extraction process was respected. However, to adapt to the cosmetic industry’s growing demand for this oil, this practice has now changed, leaving room for many other alternatives. You will find here some information about this oil, an ingredient we use in our shampoo bar.

 

How is argan oil traditionally extracted?

Originally, each Moroccan family produced its own oil using traditional and ancestral methods. Argan oil was then used in meals as well as for skincare. Moroccan women are the ones in charge of making producing this oil and have transmitted their knowledge from one generation to the next. 

There are many meticulous steps to follow to produce argan oil. First of all, the fruits’ stones need to be collected. Traditionally, the stones were picked up from goats’ droppings as they climb into argan trees to eat the fruits. These stones aren’t digested and are used to produce argan oil.

The next step consists of extracting small kernels by crushing with a stone the fruit’s stone. Kernels and shells are then separated by the women in charge. The kernels are kept, and the shells are used for fuel. The kernels are then roasted on a fire pit, allowing them to turn brown. Careful: if they roast for too long, the oil will smell of burnt, on the other hand, if they aren’t toasted enough, the oil will have a strong smell of hazelnut. These kernels are then crushed in a mill to obtain a paste which will then be kneaded for about one hour, progressively adding a precise amount of water. This paste is then split in half, leaving place to argan oil and a very dense paste. The oil is collected in a bottle and the remaining paste is given as cattle feed.

For each step, specific equipment is needed and the methods followed secret by these women are kept. To produce one litre of argan oil, 2.5kg of kernels are needed, which represents 35kg of fruit, equivalent to 6 or 7 argan trees. The oil extraction process doesn’t imply cutting any tree, only the fruits are needed.

 

How is the oil extracted today? 

When women noticed that fruits from the trees around their villages were on high demand, they gathered to create cooperatives. To meet the market’s current needs, the manufacturing process has been altered. The women collect ripe fruit fallen to the ground before the goats get to eat them. This allows kernels to maintain all their properties. However, this adds two additional steps to the extraction process. First, the fruits need to dry for around one week, in full sun. They then need to be crushed twice: once to remove the external layer and the fruit pulp, and a second time to extract the kernel from the stone.

This oil extraction method is now different according to its use. Today, food oil and cosmetic oil can’t be swapped. For a cosmetic oil, it isn’t necessary to roast the kernel anymore. This allows the oil to keep all its nourishing properties. However, this change comes with a cost: roasting kernels generates far more oil and the paste must be kneaded for an additional 2 to 3 hours compared to paste used for food. Finally, cosmetic oil needs decant in big cans for around four days. As argan oil for cosmetics is difficult to obtain, this makes it a very rare oil. To produce bigger amounts, some cooperatives and private businesses replace the mill and the kneading stage by machines to gain time.

It’s easy to spot the difference between both oils: food oil is darker and browner than cosmetic oil, due to the roasting step. The smell can also vary: unlike cosmetic oil, food oil has a stronger hazelnuts smell, but this has nothing to do with the manufacturing process. Many people can’t stand this smell, and this is why cosmetic oil is often unscented. This doesn’t affect its qualities and benefits in any way. This is the case for the oil we use in our solid shampoo.

 

What are the benefits of argan oil?

The benefits of argan oil vary according to its use. For us, what matters the most are the benefits of this oil in cosmetics. We have listed for you some of this ingredient’s proven and recognised virtues.

Argan oil is very rich in omega 6 and 9 as well as in vitamin E, which makes it a very moisturising and nourishing oil. It slows skin aging by bringing suppleness and elasticity. Omega 6 has healing properties, rarely found in any other oil. Thanks to the vitamin E, it also protects your skin from external aggressions such as wind or sun. By the way, it is ideal to apply after a very light sunburn. It has also been proven that on some types of skin, it can reduce impurities, redness, irritations, or burns. It is therefore a real plus for your skin, whatever its type.

Equally, it is one of the best oils for your hair (and your nails) as it is very nourishing. That’s why we chose to include this oil in our shampoo bar recipe.

 

What are the known misleading aspects of argan oil? 

As this oil is highly coveted today, we sometimes find misleading information about it, whether it be in Morocco or supermarkets. As explained previously, you probably now understand why argan oil is expensive. This is why you need to be cautious about its price, especially if it is too attractive. If so, this oil may have been diluted with another oil. Also, on some cosmetic products, “with argan oil” is mentioned and often highlighted. It is important to check the product’s INCI list. For your information, argan oil appears under the name of “Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil”. If this ingredient is one of the last ones in the INCI list, this means your product hardly contains any argan oil. So, mentioning argan oil on a product’s packaging in an obvious way may be considered as inappropriate.

To help you distinguish between a pure oil and a diluted one, keep in mind that argan oil penetrates the skin quickly and doesn’t leave it oily.

It is also possible that the oil has been produced from stones found in goats’ excrement. This doesn’t mean you can’t use this oil, it simply means it has lost its properties. Sadly, for a consumer, there are no ways of knowing where the kernels come from. 

Furthermore, cold pressing is a seal of quality as this method allows the oil to keep all its nourishing properties. If this isn’t mentioned on a pure argan oil, the kernels may have been roasted to produce more oil. In this case, the oil will be fine to use, but in the kitchen rather than in cosmetics.

Please note that in our shampoo, we use argan oil which hasn’t been roasted.

 

What are the consequences of argan tree exploitation?

Because of the high demand for argan oil all around the world, its production has many impacts on Moroccan land. It is important to be aware that argan trees grow in a region with very specific characteristics. It is therefore impossible to grow these trees somewhere else to face the growing demand for this oil.

In the Arganeraie, the area where argan trees grow, trees are extremely condensed, drying the ground and making it less fertile than it was previously. This over-exploitation drives women to pick fruits directly in argan trees. This alters the kernels’ quality as the fruit isn’t ripe. We also notice that farmers are getting more and more goats to accelerate the manufacturing pace to skip some steps. However, goats can threaten the tree’s development as there are sometimes too many goats in one single tree.

The Arganeraie is also a natural barrier against the advancing desert in Morocco. It is therefore important that trees continue to develop there, using sustainable farming.

Last but not least, argan tree farming also helps the country’s development given that it has become a tourist attraction. Argan tree farming in Morocco also helps to employ many women, creating true economic growth and a rise in living standards.

 

In a nutshell, argan oil is very rich and beneficial for your body and hair. When buying cosmetics with argan oil, it is important to check the INCI list to make sure that is going to fulfill your expectations. Finally, it is important to do some research on the oil used in a product, even if this information isn’t always easy to find. As for us, our argan oil comes from Morocco, it is pure, non-roasted, unscented, and from organic farming.